First Things First
Read This Week: Psalm 136
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. – Psalm 136:1
Ingratitude. There are few emotions in human beings sadder than this. An ungrateful spirit can be poisonous and toxic to relationships, environments, marriages, families, and communities. It shades and colors everything with entitlement and selfishness.
It is scary that we have this in us; that ingratitude lives in our flesh and makes us capable of hurting ourselves and others with a spirit of thanklessness and prerogative. It seems like the more that is done for an ungrateful heart, the worse it becomes. Alternate energy is gained from kindness, graciousness, and benevolence. If given more, it’s not enough. If given less, it’s unfair.
This is not a new revelation, however, after 400 plus years of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites were released from bondage by God’s hand. As they exited, they were blessed with cattle, food, gold, supplies, and riches. God then performed many miracles as they journeyed through the treacherous wilderness. He made a covenant with them, selected them as His people and said He would take them to the promised land. Pretty amazing, right? Not for the Israelites.
They were so ungrateful that, at one point, they expressed their desire to go back to Egypt. They failed to appreciate the blessings, provision and powerful miracles that God did for them and it caused them to long for a place where they had experienced hundreds of years of oppression and atrocity. Their ingratitude made them completely unreasonable and took their focus off of the beauty and kindness of the One blessing them and onto what they thought He should be giving them. They sought the blessing and not the Blesser.
King David knew about the history of his people and the ingratitude of man when he wrote this in Psalm 136:1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” The starting point of his gratitude is not the tangible things God provides or gives but it is simply God Himself. The person and character of God is the catalyst for David’s praise and thanksgiving. It is what he recognizes first before he calls attention to the things God has done. He keeps first things first and doesn’t get distracted by the gifts because he’s too busy expressing his thankfulness for the Giver.
Perhaps this Thanksgiving and always, we will be reminded of our tendency to be like the Israelites if the Holy Spirit doesn’t guide our thoughts, control our minds and check our motives. If we keep first things first and don’t get too obsessed with what we’re getting or not getting to be thankful for what we already have in the person of Jesus!
A relationship with the God of the universe through Christ and the experience of His love is all that we need in life. It is more than enough for us to be grateful now and forever. So, let’s live with thankful hearts, act in a peaceful, rational manner and positively affect others with a spirit of gratitude.
It’s true, being thankful first to God is so important! When we take the time to thank God and then others for everything we will feel God’s peace and joy. I’m thankful for all God gives! I love Him and I’m thankful for His love, guidance, comfort, and encouragement.
I agree, Heidi. I don’t think there has ever been a time that when I am thankful to God first that I don’t feel His peace, joy, encouragement, and hope. It never fails. I really want to be that follower of Jesus that is more interested in enjoying God and His goodness and grace instead of always looking for His gifts. He is the gift as you said.
Thanking God is part of acknowledging God. And acknowledging who God is and what He does is just. Have you ever had someone else take credit for your good work or give the credit to someone else? Think about how God feels and how much He loves you, and how much He does for you. Thank you, God, for who you are and all you do. I will be forever grateful.
That is a strong point about ascribing the credit where it is due, Ken. I particularly appreciated this comment in your post: “acknowledging who God is and what He does is just.” We often don’t think of giving thanks as just but it absolutely is. Not only is recognizing God for who he is an expression of gratitude but it is a just act of the heart to take delight in Him. That also brings peace and joy in our relationship with Him.